The inventing process can be a challenge. Some steps are easier to work through, some not so much. One of the common mistakes inventors make is at the patent and trademark stage. It’s a crucial step in the inventing process but one that’s difficult to understand if you’re new to the inventing world.
Andrea Evans, who participated on season 2 of Make48, is a patent attorney at The Law Firm Of Andrea Hence Evans. After graduating from law school, Evans worked at the USPTO (United States Patent & Trademark Office) as both a patent examiner and trademark examining attorney. It was there after listening to stories from inventors and entrepreneurs, that she felt compelled to open her firm. Evans is extremely passionate about educating her clients about protecting and enforcing their intellectual property. We asked her some questions on what inventors need to know about patents and trademarks.
Patents and trademarks are terms that are often used interchangeably. In intellectual property terms to distinguish between the two, inventors can patent processes, machines, compositions of matter and any improvements of any of these provided the invention is useful, novel and non-obvious. Trademarks protect any words, phrases, logos or other devices to identify the source of goods or services. To put it simply, patents protect inventions and trademarks protect brands. For example “One would patent a television and trademark, Sony.”
The Filing Process
If you’re not familiar with the filing process there are several resources to help. Evans told us that there are several free videos and articles on USPTO.gov. It’s also not required to hire a qualified patent attorney but it is highly recommended for inventors to help them fully understand their options. “Inventors that file pro-se (without an attorney) risk not providing enough information in their application, which can hurt them in the long run.” It’s also beneficial to the inventor to ensure that they have a concept and can describe the invention as having an idea. Research if the idea is patentable and then consult an attorney.
Once the application is filed, be aware that the USPTO is backlogged. It can take 2-3 years for a patent application to be assigned to a patent examiner. “Because of the nature of the examination process, most patent applications are rejected with prior-art. The inventor is given an opportunity to amend their application to overcome the rejection.”
In order for a trademark to be granted, it is “required that the application use the mark in interstate commerce.” 2-3 months after filing the trademark application it is assigned to a trademark attorney. If there are no issues with the application the trademark can be received in 12-18 months. If you’re rejected by the USPTO, it’s important to consult an attorney to help prepare a response. Most rejections can be avoided with proper research before filing.
For companies and individuals alike, knowing what to file and how to file for a patent and trademark can be tricky. Filing your idea and/or product can be a long process but it can be longer if there are mistakes on the way. Patience, persistence, and perseverance will help keep you on your path. Visit The Law Firm of Andrea Hence Evans, LLC or the USPTO for additional information on filing for a patent or trademark.